picking flowers

The other day as I was walking in the park with my dog, I overheard a child say something I have since been unable to completely remove from my mind.  As she pulled as many flowers as she could from the ground, she looked up at her father and declared , “I wish I could pick every flower there ever was in the world, then I’d have them all for myself.”

All for myself.

While we may hear this and think it simply something a child would say, I find there is something incredibly telling of human nature in her words. Why do we so often feel that in order to appreciate or love something we must take hold of it?  Why must we seek perceived possession? (and I say perceived because I don’t believe anyone ever actually possess anything, despite what we may tell ourselves) Does beauty or goodness fail to be beautiful or good if we let it be what is in itself and choose not to pluck it from the ground?

No.  In fact, it’s beauty requires it’s freedom.  Once captures, a flower is doomed to die in the hands of he who admired it most. You may have heard me write about this before, even back in Charliesbend.  I think it’s because I believe it so deeply, and the longer I live the more I realize it’s depth of truth and relevancy.  Life just keeps bringing it up for me.

I think, most often, our natural reaction to being drawn to something is to take it.  Did that child want all the flowers of the world to die in her hands? Of course not, but thats not what was on her mind.  What was on her mind was how beautiful the flowers were and how she wanted them to belong to her.

I think we often do the same thing.  We admire, so we seek to claim, to write our names on whatever it is somehow, and keep it from getting away from our hands.  But that isn’t love, not really.  Loving something means letting it be free, enjoying its beauty of what it is for what is, not for what you might gain from it.   This can be difficult, but if you think about it, how can it be any other way?

Sometimes what we love or admire, without demand or possession, chooses to remain by our side, and gives itself back to us freely.  This is the deep sweetness of love in freedom in the way it was meant to be I think.  It cannot be demanded, it must be given freely, and once in our hand we must never close our fist around it.  It’s what I believe defines real friendship, love, and family relationships.  We never own, but we offer ourselves and are simply graced by presence and company as long as God allows it on this earth.

I think that is how He chooses to love us too.  Never forceful, never demanding, He waits. And when we choose to give ourselves to Him we are more free than we ever thought we were before.

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Tattoo 2.0

After waiting nearly 6 months, I felt it was time to finish up my tattoo from May.  While ‘done’ in one sense, having finished what was begun the first time around, both Paul and I knew I had a little more I wanted wrapped up once it had healed.  As you may recall, after sitting for nearly 5 hours for the initial side piece, I pretty much hit a point where Paul said we needed to be done. My body was going into shock and he was hungry.

So the vine didn’t climb as high as it was originally intended to climb, and the hummingbird (which happened to be the last thing he did, and the most painful) was somewhat simply set because I was shaking and cursing too much to allow any sort of detail to occur.

Last Thursday I went in to get the thing finished and found the whole experience vastly different from the first time around.

First of all, once you get inked, you seem to get this idea in your mind that the process isn’t painful.   Maybe it’s sort of like the way moms seem to forget how much childbirth hurts once they see their baby for the first time.  A year later they conceive a second child in pure ignorance, only to have the memory of the first come charging back to them whilst lying in the delivery room shouting ‘what in the *bleep* ever made me forget how *bleeping* much this *bleeping* huuuuurrrrrttts!!”

I can’t really say, I’m not a mom.  But can I just say, this seems like a very nasty to trick to play on someone. Very.

So anyway, that is how I went in the second time,  with sort of a devil-may-care, whats to worry about, la de da and ho-hum state of mind.  If fact, I was so relaxed I fell asleep in the waiting room while Paul was prepping the room for me.

“Are you asleep Jen? Good NIGHT, when you relax you really relax”

“Oh, I suppose I did fall asleep…haha”

“Well, I’ll wake you up right quick”

This he says a big, mischievous grin, and for a moment I feel a bit nervous.

Did it hurt last time?  I can’t really remember. Nah, if I did squirm at all I was just being a baby, I’ll be fine.

These are the lies I tell myself as I get prepped and lie down on the table.  Paul hands me the remote and tells me to choose a movie to watch on their new flatscreen TV.  I am pleased to discover Hunger Games as one of the options, since a good friend has recently recommended I watch it and I am rather curious about it.

Soon thereafter he begins.  Ouch. Hmmm.   OUCH.  This is not how I remember this going….something is wrong.

Paul asks if I’m alright, based on the number of times I’ve jumped as he’s touched the needle to my skin.  I tell him it’s a much sharper pain than what I remember, and he proceeds to explain that this is fairly typical, and that it often does hurt more after the first time.  This occurs for a number of reasons, all of which he’s decided to tell me about after he’s begun and not before.  Strategic, I must say.

Factors that may increase pain involve one or all of the following:

-Just getting over an illness and being in a weak state physically (not applicable)

-Getting hammered the night before and attempting to get inked while hungover and already deprived of B12 (not applicable)

-Being too relaxed prior to getting your tattoo.

What now?

Yeah, so I guess because the first time around you tend to go in pretty pumped up and ready for anything, the pain is bearable.  However, if you go in (like I did) half asleep, you may be ‘woken up’ in a not-so-pleasant manner.  Also, he said there was likely still scar tissue from May, which would also increase the level of pain.

So that explains that.  It’s funny, but I find that when you have an explanation for something (even internal pain) it makes embracing it that much easier. There is something unnerving about suffering in darkness, or for no known reason.

Once he explained that to me, I was able to bear it much more graciously, and found myself very absorbed in the movie.  When he saw me starting to really struggle through the pain, Paul asked about my story, and why I had done this piece in the first place.  Having no where else to hide and needing to say something, I told him my story, and in doing so found the effects extremely therapeutic.  When he asked why I’d never told him before, I admitted that I rarely tell anyone.

“Jen, you tell your tattoo artist everything. That’s just how it is”

I suppose he’s right. Especially when he’s dragging a burning needle across your skin and asking you questions.  You tell him whatever he damn well wants to know.

Once the touch up on my side was done, he moved to my wrist to do a Latin script I’ve been wanting for some time.

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In English it reads, ‘it is through scars I love’, which for me has three separate meanings and is quite significant.  Comparatively, this one didn’t hurt at all, and I was able to finish Hunger Games with hardly a thought about the fact that I was still getting inked. This fact alone felt meaningful for me as well, for deep personal reasons, and was the highlight of the experience.

By the time he was finished, most of the other artists were watching the movie with me, and Paul told me to stay so I could see the end.  It’s a good thing he did, I might have had to stop and rent it on my way home otherwise.

The finished side piece makes me smile, and it’s healing nicely. I have no intention of getting any more tattoos from this point on, as I’ve said what I needed to say for my own purposes.  Not to say that couldn’t change, but I imagine it won’t.  In closing, I am very glad I did this and have found the process incredibly helpful to my own heart’s healing.

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The ageless soul

I recently turned 31.  Whoohoo! Actually, in truth it’s more like, ‘whoohoo….?’

While I love to celebrate life, I’ve never paid much attention to age……..my own or anybody else’s.

I suppose I just don’t see people that way. The number of years someone has been on this earth matters very little to me.  When I look into the eyes of another, I see a soul.  As much as I’d like to tell you this is a result of personal discipline and deep understanding on my part, I’m afraid that would be a lie. The truth is, God just made me that way from the get-go- to look directly into people’s eyes rather than at them. Even if I tried (and I have) it’s nearly impossible for me to ignore what I see beyond the physical eye to a much deeper place within them.

Sometimes I really wish I could.

And the thing about souls is that they’re ageless.  Once created, a person’s spirit doesn’t get older or frail and die. It’s forever.  And that is, for good or for bad, what I see when I look at people….their soul.   To be honest, it’s more clear to me than anything else visible about them, which can be overwhelming.  Sometimes it fills me with joy, other times a deep sadness I can never express and have learned to carry.

Perhaps it is for this reason I enjoy old folks company so much.  They are, so often, such beautiful vibrant, intelligent spirits hidden beneath a body no one can see past.  They’re not old, not really.   They’re just stuck for a while in something that is getting slower and more painful every day.  Such hearts have been hidden from much of the world, yet have so much inside them to offer, if we but stop to see their beauty and charm.

Some people have what I like to call ‘old souls’- hearts that have lived through far more than what their earthly age would suggest, and often wise beyond their years as a result.  These are rare souls, often quiet and still in their ways, carrying a sort of grace and acceptance of pain and goodness that is difficult to describe.  I see them often among those who carry deep soul wounds, children who know they are dying, and those who have beheld horrific trauma. While by their very nature such individuals would never consider themselves special  in any way , they are immensely so.   I have been blessed by every one of them I’ve ever had the honor of knowing.

I guess when there are so many more interesting things to notice about a person,  age just sort of takes a back seat for me.  There are young old people, old young, and lots of in-between.   It’s those things about a person that aren’t so countable or quantifiable that make me want to know them,  and it’s their soul I want to know, their beautifully ageless soul.

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